Caring for Communities - An All of Government Response to COVID-19

When COVID-19 hit New Zealand’s shores earlier this year, New Zealand moved swiftly to eliminate the pandemic and it’s potentially disastrous impacts on the country and its people. A part of the all of government response was a workstream called Caring for Communities. The aim of the work stream was to provide important information and effective support to all individuals, whānau and communities at greater risk of experiencing adverse health, social or economic outcomes as a result of COVID-19.

Speakers from the Office of Ethnic Communities, Immigration New Zealand and the Caring for Communities team shared how they worked with their networks to ensure information and resources responsive to the needs of ethnic communities and recent migrants and refugees reached them. 

Speakers shared some of their key learnings:

  • There are many invisible groups/individuals, those not connected with government agencies directly or with a recognised government service provider (NGO or Community Group) who needed help.
  • Working with NGOs and other community groups and their networks, some of which had been working independently of government, was key to connecting with some diverse communities - we needed to listen, learn and enable them to continue to deliver assistance.
  • Regular and timely inter and cross agency information sharing is essential - from frontline teams, to policy staff, up to management and onto the all of government response groups.
  • Be clear about the boundaries and ownership of different pieces of work, this may require some challenging conversations - openness and transparency helps.
  • Adaptability will become the most important skill you have - be willing to learn and adapt the way you do things.
  • Collaboration across agencies is essential to meet the needs of those who need help.
  • Managing expectations about what was possible and timeframes is critical.
  • Caring for Communities is continuing their work for another 18 months to consolidate the learning and systems developed through this response - an insights report is with government, we hope this will be released to the sector.